July 31, 2002
Vacation Legs

miles to go: 937.87

They call them "Lunch Legs." In groovy cycling lingo, it means taking your break too soon, for too long, especially during a tough long-distance ride. I'm told that it's a mistake that a lot of novice riders make.

It's easy to do. You get to that first rest stop -- somewhere around the eighteenth or thirty-third or 43,897,621st mile mark -- and all you know is that you're so damn happy to see bathrooms and buffet tables and vast expanses of cool green grass, upon which to plunk your weary overextended butt -- that you get sort of carried away with the relaxation stuff. You linger over slices of banana bread and little foil packets of orange goo. You chitchat with friends. You squint into the digital camera and say "Hickory Farms" a few hundred times. You lay your little head down and drool on your handlebars for a while, snoozing in the Sonoma Valley sunshine. The next thing you know, forty minutes have passed and most of the other cyclists have already hit the road again: all of a sudden you're sitting alone in the grass with banana bread crumbs on your face.

This, I'm told, is exactly the wrong thing to do.

What you should be doing, when you get to that first rest stop, is this: you should choke down a quick rubbery Power Bar and then immediately get right back on the bike, while your muscles are still revved up and rarin' to go. Otherwise, your body is fooled into thinking that the ride is over already -- Thank god! it says. I thought the crazy b***h was gonna make us ride to TicTac! -- and everything begins to prematurely shut down/stiffen up/punch the timecard and clock out for the day. I'm sure that there is a fancy-pants physiological explanation for this ... something about an influx of lactic acids compromising the integrity of your parallel flange indicators or something  ... but the long and short of it is that you are too pooped to pedal.  When you do finally get back on the bike and try to pick up the ride where you left off, your muscles have to warm up all over again. only this time you're trying to do it through a sleepy post-buffet-table languor.

It's like scheduling your Advanced Calculus class after six hours of Study Hall.

Applying this same logic to the non-biking portion of my life, I guess you could say that I'm suffering from a mild case of "Vacation Legs" this week. Taking a week off from work -- five blissful days of no phones/no faxes/no field instrument calibration logs, plunk in the middle of a hectic Dirt Company summer -- may have seemed like a good idea at the time. It may have seemed like a great opportunity to take a few deep cleansing breaths ... to get caught up on assorted writing projects/household tasks/personal goals that have fallen by the wayside in recent months ... to reconnect with my Inner Fourteen-Year-Old a little. It may even have seemed like the only way to restore my health and preserve my sanity in the aftermath of Hormonal Hell Month.

And the truth is that my vacation was all these things ... and more. But now that it's over, parts of me are seriously confused.

My stomach, for instance, was fooled into thinking that scrambled egg sandwiches would be on the breakfast menu every morning, from now on. The abrupt return to lukewarm Slim-Fast and soggy fruit this week has met with violent (and noisy) protest.

My feet were fooled into thinking that uncomfortable shoes had become permanently optional ... and that "Camouflage At Dusk" was the new default toenail color.

My internal clock was fooled into thinking 11:45 p.m. was an acceptable bedtime.

My husband was fooled into thinking a home-cooked meal will always be on the table when he walks through the door, from this day forward. My neighbors were fooled into thinking they'd have to listen to "Happy Town" 24/7 for the rest of their lives. Plus my hair was fooled into thinking I'd forgotten how to use a blowdryer, my UPS delivery guy was fooled into thinking someone will always be home to sign for packages, and my readers/my parents/assorted online acquaintances were fooled into thinking that I answer ALL of my e-mail within thirty seconds.

[hiya, phil!]

Most insidious of all, however, my brain was fooled into thinking that maybe early retirement had suddenly/magically become more than just a pipe dream ... and that I really don't have to spend the nine most precious and productive hours of my day answering phones and typing concrete test cylinder data until my eyes bleed.

Lunch Legs are gone in an hour. You just get back on the damn bike and ride.

Vacation Legs, I'm discovering, take a little longer to wear off.



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